Initially looking at another British Isles cruise that includes Belfast, Dublin and Liverpool, I ended up on this itinerary that embarks at Reykjavik. This definitely is a rarity as few big ships do turnarounds at Iceland. Not only could I spend more time exploring Iceland's inland and south coast from the capital, but also see three other Icelandic towns without taking a flight or a car. Another highlight of this itinerary is that even though there's only one sea day, we did have ample time at each port with the exception of Greenock. Itinerary alone is absolutely five-star for both the selection of ports and time on shore.
It’s my second time on Star after six years and the technological improvements are remarkable - now I can use screen mirroring with the new in-cabin TV to play music or videos via my smartphone, while daily activities are updated on the NCL app. And finally they’ve replaced the lighting and projector in the Stardust Theatre! Everything came across brighter, sharper and the backstage crew delivered the stage magic with great precision. The 2018 refit otherwise felt cosmetic and in such chilly weather the H2O space was not very usable unless you’re after the hot tubs.
It’s also my fourth time with NCL and in fact, I only disembarked Gem a couple of weeks ago when I stepped back on Star. First, Gem and Star shared a recurring pattern of tender/docked confusion. This is mind-boggling because sometimes it’s obvious from Google Map that a port is undockable (Seydisfjordur - advertised docked but we ended up tendering) while another has a big ship docked in Google StreetView (Cobh - advertised tendering but we were docked right next to the train station).
Ended up in cabin 9519. The TV is new but still on the small side. The triangle desk-like flat surface underneath the TV panel is just small and I want the regular movable table back. The stool - now a common feature across all older NCL ships - is still uncomfortable to sit on.
The unofficial northern capital of Iceland offers a decent selection of shops, museums and restaurants in town, but the no-brainer thing to do/see while in this part of Iceland is Mývatn. I joined a local tour (more affordable than what the ship offered) for a 7-hour excursion and all the sites were brilliant even if the weather wasn’t cooperating. But I was most glad that I met Thora, who not only is so friendly and knowledgeable as our tour guide, but also happened to be one of the female artists running the art space adjacent to the city gallery - which I only found out when I ran into her seeing the exhibition hosted at the space! We had a good long chat partly because the ship wasn’t sailing until 8pm - longer port stays are always appreciated.
The Northwest is where even Icelanders consider remote and unbearable. It’s colder and geologically older, and in many ways it resembles Norway because of the many fjords. The star attraction in the northwest is Dynjandi, the crown jewel of Iceland's countless waterfalls because of its extraordinary scale and unique layered drops. Though it's only a short 40-minute ride from the port, it appeared that it did not get the attention it deserves among fellow passengers. Isafjordur is more an expedition and adventure hub than a leisure destination, so if you are not interested in Dynjandi, there aren't an awful lot of things to do other than mountain hikes and bird-watching trips. Parts of the mudslide dams close to the town centre also serve as an observation deck to offer a better view of the town.
Seydisfjordur is a tranquill little town that draws many visual artists. But it is so small that there is no taxi or tour operator to serve cruise passengers who chose to go ashore without a ship-organised excursion. The only thing you can do is to walk - wander around to visit a few designer shops (good variety and reasonable price) lining the lake, or have an excellent soft serve in the very popular small shop next to a café. You can even walk along the hillside trail all the way to the Gufu waterfall - the slight uphill climb is not that difficult, but be warned that your feet will get wet crossing a couple of the streams! The hike takes you deeper and higher into the valley, while not being far from the main road. Highly recommend (otherwise you must sign up for an excursion to make good use of the 8 hours here).
We were docked here 10am-6pm and even getting into Glasgow would give only 4 hours of sightseeing, there didn't seem a lot to do around Greenock. Be sure to check train time to make the best use of the time in Glasgow. I wish we had more time docked at port.